A street sign is posted at the entrance of the embassy of Iran in Rabat, Morocco, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Morocco will sever diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s support for the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara independence movement, the Moroccan foreign minister said on Tuesday. (Mosa’ab Elshamy/Associated Press)
Iran denies supporting Polisario after Morocco severs ties
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has denied supporting the Polisario Front in the disputed Western Sahara a day after Morocco severed ties with Tehran in protest.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi was quoted by local media on Wednesday as saying the accusations are “completely baseless” and that Iran respects the sovereignty of all countries.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said Tuesday that his government had proof that the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which is supported by Iran, has been providing training and financial support to Polisario fighters since 2016. He said Hezbollah sent its first supply of weaponry to the Polisario last month, prompting Morocco’s decision to cut ties.
Hezbollah denied the allegations, saying Morocco was acting under American, Israeli, and Saudi pressure.
Later on Wednesday, the ISNA news agency reported that Bourita met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran during a short visit on Tuesday.
Zarif denied in the meeting accusations by Morocco that Iran supports Polisario, according to the report. It said Morocco’s ambassador to Tehran left Iran with Bourita and that Iran’s ambassador to Morocco had returned to Iran weeks ago after the end of his assignment to Rabat.
Iran backs armed groups across the Middle East, including many viewed as terrorist organizations by Western and Arab countries.
Saudi Arabia, which is locked in a regional rivalry with Iran, expressed support for Morocco. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns Iranian interference in Morocco’s internal affairs through its tool, Hezbollah’s terrorist militia, which is training the elements of the so-called ‘Polisario’ group.”
Morocco and Iran had only recently restored relations after years of enmity stemming from Morocco’s support for Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, which quashed a 2011 Arab Spring uprising supported by that country’s Shiite majority.
In response to Morocco’s sheltering of the deposed shah, Iran cultivated close ties with the Polisario in the years immediately after its 1979 Islamic revolution. But Tehran denies supporting the independence movement in Western Sahara since then.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.